I recently had the pleasure of working with my second exotic animal this year, an Asian Elephant named Tai. We were shooting a spot for an addiction clinic and the theme was ‘The Elephant in the Room’. It was a two-day shoot in Los Angeles with one of my favorite clients, Jack and Gwen at 3rd House.
Because most locations weren’t ‘elephant friendly’, we spent the first day shooting scenes and multi-layered background and foreground plates at a house and an office, and the second day with the elephant and actors on a greenscreen. The Elephant was well-trained and contracted through a company called Have Trunk Will Travel. Tai could do all sorts of tricks, like lie down, flap his ears, bow his head, raise his trunk, etc. Her handlers were very film-saavy and helpful.
We shot the spot on the Sony F5 and Zeiss Superspeeds, and only used a modest grip and lighting kit. At the camera prep, we did a quick test of the RGB 4:4:4 SR codec but found that Jack’s editing software, Adobe Premier, wasn’t compatible, so we stuck with XAVC. I did find that the camera is still a little buggy, and it crashed on us a few times: once at the prep, so we re-loaded the Firmware, and once on set. The Sony Viewfinder is very nice but I found another bug that makes it appear very dim until I adjust the contrast in the menu, then it pops right back (and no, this has nothing to do with the ‘screen saver’ function when you take your eye off the eyepiece).
For the greenscreen matches, we kept careful notes on lenses, distance, lens heights, etc., but found that the elephant was a little bigger than we planned, so we had to make adjustments to our lens calculations in order to allow for changing the size and perspective on the elephant. Otherwise, some shots would just see the legs and a little bit of the trunk of the elephant instead of more of her body.
It was a small shoot but a fun couple of days!
Director of Photography
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